However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers to work at the events, an all-island umbrella body said.
The issue will be discussed at the annual conference of the Association of Irish Festival Events (AOIFE) in Co Galway today.
AOIFE chief executive Colm Croffy said: “The costs of the festivals and events season would rise 60% if it were not for the free time given by the 45,000 volunteers.
“If you had to pay a salary to every person at every barrier, the events would not be able to survive and cover their expenses.”
AOIFE oversees 401 festivals which attracted eight million people in 2007. The most popular events are the St Patrick’s Day Festival, the Wexford Opera Festival, the Rose of Tralee, Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Galway Arts Festival.
This year’s 14th annual conference, which will be addressed by Community Affairs Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, will also focus on cultural tourism, sponsorship and marketing.
The Government and local authorities this year invested €20m in festivals.
Mr Croffy said: “The State gets about 400% return for the funding it puts in.”
The festivals cost about €120m to produce and run, while about 70 cent in every €1 goes into the local community.
Today’s conference in Ballinasloe will be attended by international delegates from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Harrogate International Festival, Tennessee Arts Festival, the Guggenheim exhibition in Bonn, the Reykjavik Arts Festival and Finland Festivals.
Irish representatives will also be present from the National Tourism Development Authority, the Arts Council, Macnas and local authority officials.
AOIFE — which brings together organisers of festivals and events in Ireland — has seen membership grow from 245 in 2003 to 401 in 2007.